Monday, July 28, 2014

Chapter 2


It's been three days.  The soldiers stayed in the Terminal Wing but last night I started hearing screams of pain.  I kept waiting for someone to help the screamer but it just kept going on and on until I couldn't stand it anymore.  I started to sneak away but Roland caught me.

"Georgie ..."

"I'm sorry Roland.  I have to try.  God is watching."

Roland grumbled before moving away from the door.  "I hope He has some of those angels of His watching too."

I patted his arm and said, "He does.  He always does."

I had my satchel over my shoulder and my earpluts in; Mr. Waverly got them away from DW and gave them back to me.  I walked over to the Terminal Wing but got a surprise when I got there to find some of the staff rolling the screaming soldier away towars Isolation.  Luckily it was Mr. Waverly in charge and not one of the others.  He sent off the otehr staffer saying he could handle the screamer.  The he let me try my stuff; he said it couldn't hurt.

A couple of the soldiers look on from the door of the exam room where Mr. Waverly had taken the soldier.  Some of them were angry but mostly what I got off of them was fear and depression.  It took most of the night but I finally got the screaming man to stop and got to sleep.  I'm really tired but DW has been up to tricks so I haven't dared to take a nap.  I took a good look at DW and I think she is sick.  The whites of her eyes aren't as white as they should be.  I think making her own "medicine" is finally catching up with her. If her skin starts yellowing then I'll know it is her liver.

I tried to tell her once that her medicine wasn't good and she slapped me really hard and locked me in Isolation for a week, claiming I'd made threats to hurt myself.  Roland was mad and said no matter what I promised Nurse Cassie I wasn't obligated to help devils and not to do it ever again.  I haven't because it scared the others so bad when I was gone but if DW starts hurting I will have to try again even if it makes the rest of us upset.

Sometimes making oaths on the Bible like I did with Nurse Cassie is a hard thing to live up to.

*****

"What are you doing?  Get away from him you freak!"

Georgie took the finger of the hand that reached for her and bent it backwards so that the big man dropped to his knees.  "I am trying to help him.  You are getting in the way."

Mr. Waverly said, "None of that Georgina.  They just don't understand.  Yet.  Can you help him?"

"Can someone tell me what happened to make him scream?"

A tired older man limped in.  "The boy has PTSD so they say."

Georgie asked, "Is that all?"

"Isn't that enough?  Ran out of his meds yesteray and this is what happened."

It took the name of the medication and some searching in two of Nurse Cassie's books but Georgie realized that the medicine had been stopped "cold turkey" and that one of the side effects of doing it that way was violent hallucinations.

"He's got DTs.  If we can keep him from hurting himself while he goes through them I think we can figure out a way to help him."

Mr. Waverly said, "That's a tall order Georgina.  After he broke his restraints the third time ..."

"Isolation.  I know, but that's not a good place for him until we find out why he's scared."

Eventually when all else failed Georgie started wiping the man's face with cool water and singing to him quietly the way she managed some of the children when they would have a bad episode or get scared.  Finally after an hour the young man slowly began to respond and his screams tapered off.  He still babbled unintelligibly but then bit by bit relaxed and fell into an exhausted slumber.

Mr. Waverly said, "You need to get back."

Georgie nodded tiredly.  "Yes.  But I have to come back and check on him later.  Do you think someone will stay with him?"

The limping older man who eventually said to call him Chaplin said, "I'll stay with him.  If the poor bastard is lucky he'll sleep the clock around."

Georgie shook her head.  "He need to drink.  He's sweated buckets more than I was able to get down him.  He needs it to flush the nasties out of his system."

Georgie was walking out of the ward when the same man, Lt. Johnson, stepped in front of her and demanded, "Who are you?  What are you?"

George could have felt a lot of things at the rudeness of those questions but instead she took one look into the man's eyes and felt a deep compassion.  "My name is Georgie - or the grown ups call me Georgina.  What I am is someone that wants to be your friend and help.  But I know I can't be until you're ready.  So until thenif you have questions - real questions - I'll see if I can answer them.  "She stopped and sighed.  "But not right now 'cause I have to go back to the other before I get in trouble.  Plus Roland will be worried."

Georgie slipped around the door, just making it to her room before morning roll call.

There was rampant curiosity about the girl by those that had witnessed her manner.  Chaplin was the first to say, "She don't seem like a defective."

Waverly was almost too tired to be afronted.  "Don't call the children that."

"And she don't look much like a kid either."

"And none of that either or I'll lock the ward down myself and lose the key."

"Easy Waverly.  You're reading something that isn't there.  Just mean she ain't what I expected when all we've heard is that we're bivouacing with a bunch of defective children."

Waverly pinched the bridge of his nose and then gave a brief rundown of the children's history.  "Georgina and Roland should have led perfectly normal lives except for the circumstances of their births.  Roland would have received physical therapy early on and probably not become wheelchair bound - he still had feeling in his lower extremeties, just not real motor control.  And Georgina should have been screened and fitted with proper hering aids and not just earplugs.  All the two of them needed was minor attention in infancy and they could have been deemed fit to be in society.  But they were orphans and are completely immune to X13 and all its variants so they were sent here to this bloody ..."  He looked at the men watching him.  "Once a month the federal vampires show up to siphon a pint of blood off of each of them.  That blood is the sole source for the serum that has become the only viable treatment in the world for X13."

There was stunned silence.  Mr. Waverly smiled cynically.  "So gentlemen ... and ladies ... what's your take on our rsidents now?  Still think they are defenctive mistakes that should be euthanized?"

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Chapter 1


Had a bad episode today.  Should have known I was in for a hard time after Victor knocked over the rolling rack of breakfast trays and then had a meltdown.  By the time Roland and the other boys got him calmed down enough that Devil Woman stopped threatening to send him to Lock Down I was bad sick to my stomach.  The static in my head was so loud I wanted to bang my head on the floor.

Roland saw and told Caro to take me for a walk.  Usually I would have headed straight for the gazebo but it was raining so we went to the empty floors to walk.  That's when I heard the voices.  They were getting so loud even Caro could hear them.  Roland always says that since they never tell us anything we have to listen when we can so we can take care of each other.  So that's what I did but I listened too hard, too long before I was fully recovered.

Roland says we can't get caught listenting because we could get in trouble and sent to isolation or maybe even Lock Down.  So I was being careful before Caro and I left the mechanical room.  They were way too close so I decided to pretend we were playing tag.

But the man with Mr. Waverly got a call on a comm link.  The pitch of the squeal was the straw that broke the came's back.  Poor Caro.  She missed most of her Tri-V show taking care of me.  She said that it's OK but it's not.  I need to figure out a way to make it up to her.  She's such a good friend.

I missed dinner.  I'm waiting for last bed check and for them to locak down the ward and turn the electric off and then I'll pull my bag out of the closet.  There isn't a whole lot left.  I can't wait for the rain to stop to see if there are mushrooms in the woods yet.  I also need to see Roland and tell him what I heard so maybe he can piece things out.

*****

"Roland?  You awake?"

There was a creak and then a voice whispered, "Yeah.  Is there a problem Georgie?"

"No.  Just need to tell you stuff."

"Stuff about the people that were put in the old Terminal Wing?"

"Yeah."

"Ok.  Roll my chair over here.  Ol' DW pushed it to the wall again."

There was no need to explain.  Ol' DW - short for Devil Woman - was one of only two nurses employed at Pickering and she was as much a resident as her charges due to pricking her finger on a sample during the original Terror Blue Attack.  She acted out her anger at life with passive aggressive zeal aginst "the children" at every opportunity.

As Georgie helped Roland into his wheelchair she noticed a reddened patch of skin.  "Roland ..."

"I know Georgie."

"I'll put some Aloe on it."

"OK," Roland said nonchalantly despite the location of the forming pressure sore.  All of "the children" exhibited little to no modesty.  Of them all Roland and Georgie might have but circumstances and living arrangements had molded their natural instincts into a high level of trust and dependence on each other.  Some might fight the staff touching or seeing them, but with each other they were completely oblivious to the social norms of adolescence.

Once Roland was seated and upright, he and Georgie rolled to what was once the nurse's station but was now just one more storage space.  On the walls were childish drawings, a years-out-of-date calendar, and several posters of the variety designed to remind staff of good hygiene and went to report an incident for write up.

While Georgie went over to a stack of boxes and pushed them aside to gain access to an ancient first aid kit, Roland levered himself up and leanted over the old desk.

Georgie came back and lowered his overalls enough to put aloe gel on the sore and a clean homemade bandage.  Anyone watching her would have seen she was surprisingly competent.  In fact George was the "doctor" for most of what ailed her peers.

She said, "Victor is supposed to help you do your exercises so this doesn't happen.  You can't cover for him if he isn't."

After a brief pause Roland admitted, "He's getting worse.  He's too angry and won't listen anymore.  I ... Idon't know how much longer he'll be with us."

"Sadly but realistic Georgie nodded.  "We haven't lost anyone in almost two years but Victor is getting dangerous.  He pushed Pamela three days ago and she would have fallen down the stairwell if Joey hadn't caught her hand.  Victor is too big to act out like this.  I saw Mr. Waverly and Mrs. Carver talking."

"I know.  Victor got another write up.  One more and he'll got to Lock Down."

"There's nothing left to help him with Roland.  I've read his chart over and over and looked in all the books that Nurse Cassie left us.  His hyper-thyroid is getting out of control.  He's hardly sleeping, and his mood swings are totally unpredictable.  I got his heart rate better by saving the real salt for his food but the rest of us need salt too."

Roland sighed.  "How long?"

"Maybe a week if he holds to his recent pattern.  No more than that since he only has one strike left.  And if he hits a Staff ..."

"Yeah."  The two were quiet, absorbing the seemingly inevitable loss to come.  Eventually Roland sighed in accpetance and said, "You heard news?"

Georgie told him what she had heard word-for-word.  Roland rolled it around in his head a few minutes before he was ready to come up with a hypothesis.

"They're soldiers.  They are on permanent triage.  But things must be going bad if they've run out of room for them in their places like the VAs."

"Or maybe they're immunes too," Georgie interjected.

"I don't think so, but maybe.  No way to say yet.  I'll ask."

Georgie put her hand on Roland's arm.  "They won't be ready to talk.  Not for a while."

"You get an impression?"

*****

Georgina Pearl Rytech had been born during quarantine.  She, like the other children, had been exposed to the X13 virus in the womb.  She was born prematurely and immune to X13, but not immune to the lack of care she received after her parents died of the disease shortly after her birth.  A common cold virus went through the nursery; most of the babies that caught it lived but some developed complications.  Georgie's cold caused out of control fevers that left her lathargic, weak, and unresponsive.  Up until she was four she had been diagnosed as possibly brain damaged or suffering from an extreme form of autism.  Eitehr, according to federal healthcare guidelines, warranted permanent triage.

When the children were four years old a new influence entered their lives; Cassandra Troy, a nurse practitioner who belonged to a new Christian sect.  They were law-abiding activists, dedicated to ministering to thsoe who, due to force of law, could not access healthcare through the normal routes.  They were also celibate by choice since being in contact with such people often meant becoming permanently triaged themselves.

Cassandra, or Nurse Cassie as the children came to call her, chose her life after losing her only child to an in-the-wild variant of X13 and watching her marriage crumble afterwards.  She knew she would have almost nothing to work with except what she arrived with so she made every pound of her allotted moving weight count.  The greatest thing she came armed with was knowledge.

First she made sure the children were all properly diagnosed.  To her horror, she discovered that most were not potty trained and non-verbal, not due to mental incapacity but due to neglect.  It took two years and some losses but the improvement in the children's ability to interact with their surroundings and each other was so unbelievable that several teams from government oversight investigated.

Nurse Cassie, through her contacts in the outside world, acquired educational material and toys for the children.  Their lives and health improved accordingly.  Two ofthe children stood out - Roland and Georgina.  Roland's only deficit was a damaged spinal column that prevented him from being able to walk.  That happened when an untrained person pulled him from his mother's birth canal.  Nurse Cassie found an old wheelchair in one of the abandoned floors of Pickering and with the help of other staff members, modified it for Roland's use.  Georgie was more difficult though in the end, the "fix" was so easy as to be laughable.

Georgie, it turns out, suffers from an extreme type of auditory processing disorder.  It is unclear whether she was born this way or developed the disorder as a result of the high fevers she had as a newborn.  One day Nurse Cassie observed Georgie playing dress up.  It didn't matter what costume she picked, she had to wear the football helmet with it as well.  If she couldn't wear the helmet she wouldn't play or engage.  Then Nurse Cassie observed the other children giving the helmet to Georgie even if it wasn't her turn.  This evolved into Georgie wearing the helmet all the time.

Nurse Cassie tried to stop this behavior and make Georgie share.  She was startled when the other children refused to cooperate.  It was sweet Caro who informed Nurse Cassie that George came up with really fun games but only if she was wearing her "magic hat."

"It keeps the dragons out of her head."

With that clue and a few additional diagnostic tests, Nurse Cassie was able to discover a way to help Georgie function normally ... ear plugs.  She also discovered Georgie's hearing had a greater range than what was considered normal whe nshe would repeat something she had overheard that most people would not have been able to hear.  She also unconsciously had learned to read lips, and as a side benefit also had an uncannily accurate grasp on facial expressions and body language.

Nurse Cassie quietly molded Roland and Georgie into leaders and caregivers for the rest of the children and taught all of them to be as secretly self-sufficent as possible.  Part of this was teaching them to use natural and holistic medicine.  She also taught them what plants in the private grounds around Pickering were good to eat and/or good for medicinal purposes.  She taught them to garden and established the tradition of the children having a garden with flowers, herbs, and some veggies.  The rest of the staff hardly even gave it a thought these days, it was simply something to keep the children constructively occupied and out of trouble.

Then came the fateful day that Nurse Cassie herself became ill.  It turned out to be a fast moving cancer.  She died with all the dignity with which she had lived and by her own choice was buried in Pickering's small, private cemetery.

She had spent her last months cramming every bit of knowledge she could into Roland's and Georgie's heads.  Most of all thoug hshe taught them how important information and descretion were.  The children already had a loose information gathering system; after Nurse Cassie's death Roland devised a more sophisticated one.

Since he was not very mobile Roland came to view himself as a spider while the other children were the web.  They would catch bits and pieces of information that fluttered by them and he would then weave it into the tapestry and knowledge they had about the staff, their life inside Pickering, and the world beyond it.  For more detailed reconniscence, Georgie's talents came in handy though some days were better for her than others.

*****

"Was Caro able to tell you what Mr. Waverly and the soldier said?"

"Yeah, the words but not much else.  The soldier scared her and she said Waverly was angry."

"He was, but not at us.  And the soldier was scared and didn't like feling that way.  The Director isn't happy either but its more about money than anything else.  There's a colonel but I don't think he will do anything but leave the soldiers here.  He sounded just like the federal investigators do ... only wants to hear things will work according the rules and his timetable, doesn't want to know about stuff that doesn't."

"Same impression I got.  We watched from the window as the soldiers arrived.  About half are on stretchers, most of the rest of them look like they've been in Isolation or maybe even Lock Down.  I've told everyont to stay away until we see if they are going to cause trouble."

"All of the men are like that?"

"They aren't all men.  There are some grown woment too."

"Hmmm.  I wonder ..."

"I said every one Georgie."

It wasn't often that Roland used that tone, and even rarer that he used it with Georgie.  But in this instance he had read Georgie correctly.  "Roland, it's my sovereign duty.  I promised that if I saw someone I could help that I would."

"No.  These are grown people ... especially the men could be dangerous."

"You mean they could be like Benson was."

"Yes, that's what I mean."

Carl Benson had been an orderly at Pickering for three years.  He was also a sexual pervert and pedophile.  Nurse Cassie had tried to get rid of him almost from the moment he arrived.  For over a year she fought with the adminstrators though without proof and only the testimony of deficient children.  Then one day he'd gone too far and Mr. Waverly had witnessed him touching one of the children inappropriately.  Before Benson could be brought up on charges he fell or jumped from the roof.  No one mourned him but it served as a lesson in trust to the children.

"So I'll start with the women.  Maybe that's how we can see which ones are ok and which ones aren't."

Roland clinced and unclinched his fists showing his frustration and concern.  "I don't like it."

"I'll be careful.  Just like I was with Mr. Waverly.  That turned out good."

"Mr. Waverly is a nice man."

"Maybe some of the soldiers are too.  Nurse Cassie said we need to stick together."

"Yeah ... 'we' do.  They aren't us.  They're from outside."

"But they aren't outside anymore.  They live here now."  And while she had the advantage she pushed, "If nothing else we should get as much information from them as we can."

After a short, internal struggle Roland nodded.  "But we still wait a few days and just watch."

Slowly Georgie nodded, knowing that was as far as Roland would go.  "All right.  We'll wait.  And watch."

Friday, July 25, 2014

Prologue


"Georgie what did they mean?"

"I don't know Caro.  You need to be quiet so I can think."

"OK."

Georgie found herself fighting against the confusion that regularly tried to swamp her when there were too many sounds going on at the same time.  Without realizing it she curled up and put her hands over her ears.

Caro, a chunky, blank-fasced girl with almond-shaped eyes and hair cropped so short you could see the scalp of her irregular shaped skull scooted over to her friend and gently patted her shoulder.  "Poor Georgie.  It's OK.  Devil Woman shouldn't have taken your ear plugs.  Poor Georgie."

Slowly the girl called Georgie, sporting the same frayed jumpsuite and hairstyle as her friend, fought back the chaos and pulled individual words and phrases from the maelstrom of sound in her brain.  As she rocked the words became almost like pictures in her head.

"... no room at the inn Colonel."
"My authority ..."
"... funding?"
"... make do ..."
"Temporary?  Unknown at this time ..."
"Soldiers do not belong in a place like ..."
"... limited options ..."
" ... amputees, PTSD, head traumas, recovering POWs ... we aren't equipped for ..."
"... triaged ..."
"Colonel, this is ridiculous.  I refuse ..."
"I don't give a damn Director.  You wil ..."

Cautiously Georgie took her hands away from her ears and sat up with the help of Caro.

"You came back Georgie."

"Yes.  We need to find Roland."

Georgie and Caro carefully crawled out of the space created by the conjunction of several old duct work systems.  Caro looked at Georgie who held up her hand to one ear while covering the other completely.  She closed her eyes and concentrated.  Then her eyes flew open and she looked around in near panic before startling Caro with a squeal and a loud, "Tag!  You're it!!"

She gave a carefree laugh, and turned to run only after a few steps to slam into the chest of a large man in uniform who was accompanied by another man wearing orderly scrubs.  Caro became frightened and backed away but was unwilling to run and leave her friend.

George slowly backed away as well, breathing hard, to stand protectively in front of Caro.

The soldier made a disgusted face.  "Damn.  how many of these you got around here?"  His comm unit rang and he started talking into it while still grimacing at the picture the two girls made.

The orderly, used to similar ractions from the few outsiders who came to the Pickering Triage Center, ignored the soldier and addressed the two girls quietly.  "Georgina, Caroline ... we have guest and new arrivals today.  You need to return to the community room."  As further encouragement he added, "Mrs. Carver has the Tri-V on."

Watching the Tri-V was Caro's favorite activity next to following Georgie around and she started pulling her friend to go.  Georgie however was blinking rapidly and rocking stiffly in place.  The soldier noticed as he closed his comm link and asked, "Is it having a fit or something?"

The orderly briefly closed his eyes in angry frustration but then turned to the soldier and said, "Back up about five paces, quietly, and stay there."

The soldier, as if afriad of being infected, followed the orderly's instruction.  The orderly looked at Caro, smiled gently and asked, "Can you get Georgina back to the dorm?  It looks like she needs a lie down."

Caro smiled and answered, "Sure Mr. Waverly."

"That's a good girl."

Caro guided her friend towards the dorm, knowing that as soon as Georgie got into her room and crawled into her closet for a while she'd be fine.  She always was.

As the two girls disappeared around a corner the soldier shuddered in disgust.  "Holy hell.  It's inhuman that things like that are forced to live.  Were they botched aborts?"

"No," Waverly answer with gritted teeth.  "Caroline has a mild case of Down's Syndrome.  Georgina is more complicated.  She has ome kind of neurological disorder obviously ..."

"Obviously," the soldier said sarcastically.

Waverly sighed and started walking towards the staff wing.  "Look, if you are going to be here you need to get rid of your prejudices or you'll just create problems with facility staff and residents."

"I don't need to do anything.  Those freaks are outlaws and ..."

Waverly finally lost his patience.  "OK let's set a few things straight.  One?  You are as much a 'resident' as the rest of us are.  So join the freak club and get over yourself.  Two?  Our current ... and lawful ... residents have fewer health problems than those of you who are new to the facility.  If they didn't they wouldn't have made it this far."

"Like hell," the soldier said, clearly affronted to be lumped in with what he considered to be defectives.

"OK let's put this in a way you can understand it shall we?  The only reason there is room for you lot is because our Terminal Ward is empty.  Some of you men will never leave that ward.  From what few of the records I've seen thus far, some of you might even wind up in the lock down ward.  And for a fact some of you will wind up in Potter's Field unless your family can pay your Death Tax and claim your body."

"Shut up."

"Nope.  Reality time soldier.  And I can guarantee if you take a swing at me you will be the first one to make your way to lock down.  Got it?  Good.  Now listen close.  Those kids are all that remains of the Terror Blue Attack."

The soldiers face went blank in shock.

"That's right Johnson.  The terrorist attack on the St. Margaret's Pregnancy and Fertility Clinic."

"All them people died."

"Correction.  Most of them died.  About fifty adults and as many newborns were  quarantined after surviving the initial attack.  Many of the adults were pregnant women who had been there the day of the attack for appointments.  Within six months all but six of the adults were dead, most of the infants were dead, and about half of the babies that were born during the quarantine period as well."

"The virus did that to them?"

"No.  Poor health care during quarantine caused some of it.  Premature births was another cause.  The babies that were normal and survived were quietly turned over to Child Protective Services after quarantine was lifted.  Those deemed unadoptable were permanently triaged and sent here."

"How come I never heard about this?  Not even in m college classes."

Waverly briefly wondered how the man had even made it in college if he was this stupid.  "Welcome to the Land of Reality, Lt. Johnson.  There's a lot of stuff that never makes it into the history books or onto the Tri-V news.  What you need to get through your head is that you've fallen into the same black hole those kids were shoved in."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Feeling sorry for the guy Waverly dialed back his attitude but still told him the brutal truth.  "Look, there are no doctors here.  We've got one that comes around once a month but that's it.  You men are triaged just like the other residents.  When what you've brought with you is gone, there isn't anymore.  The food the residents eat is whatever slop comes in on the supply train.  You'll eat it just like they do or starve.  You get sick you better be able to count on your friends to help you.  You get too sick you are put in isolation and you take care of yourself.  Pickerings is not set up for visitors or resident mail service so no help is coming from the outside.  And as a permanently triaged and debilitated individual, you will likely live here or someplace like here for the remainder of your life.  So, if I were you, I would give serious consideration to creating some good will with those you call friends because somehow, some way, they've managed to be strong enough to survive sixteen years of this.  Because let me tell you, from where I'm standing you are going to need all the help you can get."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blog Under Construction

Blog is under construction.  Expect to see the first post within the week.